CH is advised to create a Community Development Corporation
A special Economic Development Advisory Committee appointed by Cleveland Heights City Council delivered its recommendations to the council’s Committee of the Whole on Feb. 13. Its top recommendation is the creation of a Community Development Corporation (CDC) in Cleveland Heights that will partner with the city and other organizations to promote the city's economic development.
The CDC would focus on revitalizing mixed-use business districts, coordinating Special Improvement Districts (SIDs), and work with the city and civic organizations to create visions and plans for neighborhoods and business districts throughout the city. The CDC would also focus on enhancing the identity of the city and its unique neighborhoods and business districts, and marketing the city throughout the region.
CDCs are private, nonprofit corporations that drive economic development and strive to improve the quality of residents' lives. Shaker Heights, Lakewood, South Euclid and other local communities work with CDCs in attracting, maintaining and developing business activity.
The committee recommended to council that FutureHeights, a 501(c)3, nonprofit organization serving the residents of Cleveland Heights and University Heights, fill the CDC role. Over the past 15 years, FutureHeights has developed the Heights Observer, Heights Music Hop, Neighborhood Mini-Grants and the Neighborhood Leadership Workshop Series—all designed to market the city and get residents involved in improving their community.
According to FutureHeights Executive Director Deanna Bremer Fisher, "FutureHeights is now poised, with a fantastic group of volunteers who have both the energy and the experience, to create a comprehensive CDC that will partner with the city to strengthen our neighborhoods and commercial districts through planning, development and creative place-making."
The Economic Development Advisory Committee also recommended that the city's new economic development staff, assisted by the CDC, develop targeted business district strategies; that the city improve its image by investing in the community and by marketing its assets; and that city government continue and increase its support for the arts, which are a catalyst for economic development.
The committee comprises seven residents with expertise in economic development, city planning, banking, organizational development and community engagement. It received presentations from the Cuyahoga County Planning Department, Mark Chupp of Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, and various economic development experts from Greater Cleveland. Each expert who presented to the committee supported the establishment of a CDC for Cleveland Heights.
In response to the committee's recommendation to create a CDC, Mayor Cheryl Stephens stated, "It creates a new opportunity for Cleveland Heights to work with a nonprofit to create more investment in its neighborhoods and business districts."
Michael Ungar, a member of Cleveland Heights City Council and chair of its finance committee, said he is “100 percent in favor of creating a CDC in Cleveland Heights.” Expressing his thanks to the committee members and Bremer Fisher for their leadership on this initiative, he said, "There are a number of exciting opportunities—and challenges as well—that we, as a city, are primed to capture and capitalize on, and I believe that a CDC, working arm-in-arm with the city's outstanding economic development team, represents the right vehicle with which to do so."
According to Ungar, CH City Council will consider recommendations of the city's Master Plan Steering Committee, as well as the recommendations of the Economic Development Advisory Committee, in making a decision on the role of a Community Development Corporation in Cleveland Heights. The final draft of the Cleveland Heights Master Plan is due to be released in March.
Joy Roller served on the Economic Development Advisory Committee. She is a new member of the FutureHeights Board of Directors, the founder of Archer Consulting, former president of Global Cleveland, and former executive director of Gordon Square Arts District.